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As Ryan Resky and the rest of his classmates in the Lindenhurst High Class of 1996 were mapping out their futures, 11th grade physical education teacher Jeff Smith had Resky’s planned out.
“I’d love to hear you do the horse call at Belmont Park,” Smith wrote in Resky’s yearbook.
Smith got his wish. Every now and again, Resky dons black boots, white pants, a red jacket and a black hat, points his bugle into a microphone and plays that magical eight-second tune known to horse racing fans everywhere.
It is “First Call,” better known as “Call to the Post.” And for thousands of anxious racing fans on a random Saturday at Belmont it has dual meanings — the horses are making their way to the track and it’s time to head to the mutual window to place your bets.
Resky didn’t chart out this course. He was named All-County Orchestra and All-State Symphony Band as a high-school senior and had been performing professionally since he was 14. Resky also received the Arion Music Award, the top musical honor in his school district as a senior.
Resky now lives in Astoria with his wife Heidi, an accomplished opera singer and choral director at Long Island City HS, and 4-month old son Zachary. He wasn’t a horse racing fan growing up. In fact, his introduction to racetrack bugling was quite accidental.
Performing at a wedding, Resky met Mark O’Keeffe, who was the official track bugler at Belmont Park and currently holds that position at the Meadowlands. O’Keeffe also founded the All-Star Buglers, a group that has performed not only at racetracks across the country, but also the national anthem before a Philadelphia Phillies game and had an appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Resky joined the group in September 2004 at Philadelphia Park. They also performed at the Breeders’ Cup in 2005, the Belmont Stakes in 2006, as well as the Hambletonian, the most prestigious of the United States Trotting Triple Crown races. In all, Resky has performed at 16 race tracks in the country.
Resky began filling in as the race-track bugler at Aqueduct and Belmont for Sam Grossman in November 2005. When “Sam the Bugler,” needs a day or a week off, Resky fills in, playing “Last Call” at least nine times a day.
But it’s more than just “Last Call,” for Resky. Depending on the occasion at the track, he’ll break into a little jazzed up Christmas tune, or play “Happy Birthday,” to a lucky patron. Other times he’ll belt out “In the Mood,” or “I Got Rhythm,” for fans by the paddock.
One of his biggest thrills was performing “Auld Lang Syne” for Jerry Bailey at Gulfstream Park in January 2006 after the legendary jockey’s final race.
“People think you just go out and play the call,” Resky said. “You have to go out and be musically prepared. You have to prepare at home before and get warmed up at least an hour before the first post.”
When he’s not at Belmont, Resky has performed on Broadway in musicals “Legally Blonde,” “Chicago,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” and “The Full Monty.” He was also featured on an episode of “The Sopranos” as a wedding band performer and musical arranger.
But it’s at Belmont where Resky is noticed.
“You’re the most visible person at the track,” Resky said. “Everyone knows if you play badly. But sometimes they don’t know if you’re playing good. There’s a lot of pressure, but you still have to go out and give a good performance.”
Just as Jim Smith expected.
Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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